Apr 6, 2011

My fascination with Crowdsourcing

Some days ago I linked to a "New York Times" article on crowdsourcing. Basically, crowdsourcing means the using of technology to aggregate information and then map it [here you can see the article that talked about the concept for the first time]. It can be used for example to monitor elections, crime, or to respond to disasters [like in the case of Haiti]. This video by James Surowiecki, the author of the book "The wisdom of crowds [book review]" explains the power and value of aggregating information via Internet, especially against natural disasters. The most well known project on aggregating information is USHAHIDI, a non-profit that started using aggregating information during the violent events in Kenya in the elections of 2008 [in their website they have two pretty cool videos to understand what they are all about]. This is a video of a TED conference by Erik Herman, one of the founders. The team, a star team!!!, is here, most of them have blogs on technology in Africa. Like this one.

A very interesting video by MIT on USHAHIDI is here, and a profile of David Kobia, a cofounder is here. The profile tells how it all started:
Being mentioned in the same sentence as Radio Mille Collines is akin to being called a Nazi," says Kobia, a gentle man with an open face and an easy smile. Beset by remorse and despair, he pulled the plug on Mashada, got into his car, and sped up Interstate 20, planning to spend a somber winter holiday with friends in Atlanta. Somewhere near the Georgia border, his cell phone rang. An online acquaintance, Erik Hersman, was calling. Hersman had read a post by a prominent Kenyan blogger, Ory Okolloh, calling for someone with the know-how to program a Google map to track the violence and destruction. "Can you put it together?" Hersman asked. Seeing an opportunity to atone for Mashada, Kobia turned around and headed back to Birmingham. Two days later, Ushahidi was up and running.
See here to read about the partnership between USHAHIDI-Haiti and Tufts University.

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